We hear a lot on the news about what is wrong with society. We hear a lot from our friends and family about what is wrong with us. In fact, it’s likely that daily we ourselves even have thoughts that criticize and judge what is wrong with our body, our family, our life and our outlook. These problems probably fall somewhere in the categories that make us the most overweight, medicated, addicted and in-debt adult population in American history. We numb out the pain and doldrums of our jobs, relationships, failures and lacks. But, if we were to try and focus on what the initial trigger for all these problems is, we could point directly to one thing: disconnection.
That word probably doesn’t have much of an impact. But, here’s what disconnection leads to: a general lack of apathy or feeling of worthiness, a displacement of self from the collective whole and a feeling that we are utterly and completely alone. Disconnection then evolves into depression, anxiety, stress and those things eventually lead to overeating, high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, etc. If we trace a multitude of physical problems back to their root, what we will find most often at the source is disconnection, not to mention the myriad of mental and emotional problems that also arise from this main dysfunction.
Disconnection is such a problem because at our heart, at our core, what every human being is ingrained with (aside from those with severe personality disorders) is the need for connection. It’s absolutely essential for our health and well-being. Those of us that went to college before things like this were barred from being shown to the general public may remember viewing the video of a horrifying psychological test done on three baby monkeys.
The video showed one baby in a room with its real mother, getting all the love and care it needed. A second baby monkey was shown in a room with a stuffed mother who may have been fluffy, but didn’t interact with the baby. The third baby monkey was in a room with a wire-frame mother, who was not only lifeless, but lacked any warmth or interaction at all. The experimenters let the cameras roll and recorded the effects. The first baby monkey with the real mother did fine, and grew up healthy. The second baby monkey with the stuffed mom developed a host of worsening psychological and personality disorders and eventually had to be put down. The third baby monkey became so distraught that he died. He died. Without connection, there is no survival.
And here we are, living in a society that rarely fosters intimate connection. Just met someone? The slightest contact of a handshake will suffice. Need to reach out to someone? Best do it with the impersonality of a 160 character text message. Time to break up with your partner? How about an email. And, when you’re on the receiving end of a break up and your heart has been broken, how many of us decide, “you know what? Fuck it. It’s best just not to love again.” Yeah, right. Ever tried that for any length of time? It’s humanly impossible. We create our own alienated version of suffering for a while, but the heart stirs and our innate desire inevitably has us reaching out to kindle some kind of flame.
And if in our reaching out, we reach first for the bottle, the needle, the pint of Haagen Daz or the shiny, new, all-too-expensive toy, then we’re simply filling our void with more emptiness.
Yeah. This is not good.
We’ve lost the ability to share a human moment. To not only see and be seen and hear and be heard, but to actually acknowledge that we need these things. Well, let me break the ice. We do need these things. If we’re plagued at all by some kind of illness derived from disconnection (which, by my accounts is most of them), then the first thing we need to do is realize how important it is to reach out.
“But I don’t have anybody!”
Yeah. That’s bullshit.
Everyone has someone. And, if for some reason in the off chance you’re living in a cave or an igloo, start walking. Because your survival depends on you finding another human being for help. There are even people who volunteer to be helping hands and connectors for others. As in, they do it for free, and for nothing in return. Honestly, everyone can reach out to someone, and in light of any crisis, it may be the most essential aid you could seek.
Here’s an anecdote. I was recently teaching a workshop. In it, was a lovely man who raised his hand when I made the comment that “what people fear most is death.” He very politely challenged me and said, “No, actually, what people fear most is being alone.” He then went on to tell me that after 9/11, he’d observed how scared of life people had become. It interested him, and so he arranged an experiment that would take him through all ten of his biggest fears. He went skydiving to overcome his fear of heights. He learned how to “wrangle” snakes to overcome his ophidiophobia. He even hired an aging circus performer to throw knives at him as he was attached to a spinning wheel to overcome the fear of death. He has a scar on his head to prove it.
Finally, his last fear was the fear of being alone. Death was no big deal for him, he told me, but the fear of loneliness was another story. He’d arranged to spend 7 days in the original “solitary confinement” cells, which were a part of the amish tradition in Pennsylvania. They are conical in shape with a small hole at the top to let in the “light of god” to help cleanse perpetrators locked therein of their sins. He ensured that he’d receive meals at regular intervals, but with no human contact whatsoever.
He didn’t last 3 days.
After his third day, he had to get out, he had to escape from this unbelievable disconnection. It was just too much to bear. He’d faced heights, snakes, being jobless and homeless and death, but loneliness brought him to the breaking point. Cheers to him for putting it to the test. Woe to the rest of us for not heeding his results.
The only option here is to connect. To get past these unbelievably thick walls we’ve built around ourselves to let in the real light of the warmth of another person’s spirit. Each of us knows that we would be there for someone else if they need us, without question. So, why is it so hard for us to imagine that no one would be there in our time of need? They will be. But, the onus is on us to simply reach out. To come out of our proverbial shell and extend a hand. For, when we extend it, it will be held.